If We Don't Raise Our Voice About Climate Change, No One Will Do It For Us

This is our first priority for 2015: showing thousands of young people, and through them many more "adults," that a global agreement is necessary, and difficult ... but achievable.
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"The facts are known, but our leaders seem immune to them."

CliMates is an international, student-led think-and-do-tank working on climate change. Since one of our strengths is to unite young people from very diverse places, we wanted to tell the same story from two different corners of the world: we are Aglaé Jézéquel, 22, a French climatologist-to-be and Noella Nsamwa, 23, a Congolese paralegal student currently living in the U.S. Both of us are committed to giving climate change the importance it deserves in international debates.

For me, Aglaé, climate change was, at first, a physics story. During most of my life, it was stored in some corner of my mind as a vague, distant menace to humanity. It was not until I took a course on the subject - discovering the full and brutal magnitude of it -- that I understood how humanity became a geological force which could completely destabilize our environment. I also understood that I had my part to play in trying to tackle it.

I decided to study climatology. In France, scientists have a very limited influence on policy makers. It is my belief that we need to create a strong synergy between research and policy, particularly when it comes to climate change. One of my life goals is to help create such a bridge.

For me, Noella, my passion in climate change was found during a congress on indigenous people.

Being born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I have long been fascinated by the difference between "modern" and "traditional" ways of life. I find more passion in the latter, a purer expression of what life is about. Original tribes have protected our forests for centuries. I think it is this kind of harmony that we have to learn from if we truly aspire to live in a world free of greenhouse gases. But by threatening indigenous' people way of life, refusing them recognition, we are cutting ourselves from a great wealth of wisdom and knowledge.

From very different places, we both feel a common frustration. Climatologists have confirmed, report after report, what indigenous communities have felt for a long time. The facts are known, but our leaders seem immune to them -- reiterating their commitment to the 2°C target, summit after summit, while taking the very decisions that will most likely condemn them to fail.

We have put this frustration to good use through our involvement in CliMates, by volunteering in collaborative research and mobilization projects -- studying, for instance, traditional ways of life among indigenous people to find new approaches to adapt to climate change. We both believe that, since climate change is such a complex issue, it can only be solved by creating connections where they are not expected.

Like most climate "nerds", we have our attention firmly set on Paris 2015, when world leaders are expected to reach a global and binding agreement. This would be the first time that international climate negotiations, which have been going on for more than twenty years, would lead to such an agreement.

Through the COP in MyCity initiative, we intend to lift the curtain on this time-consuming yet vital process, by organizing youth-led simulations of these negotiations in many countries around the globe. This is our first priority for 2015: showing thousands of young people, and through them many more "adults," that a global agreement is necessary, and difficult ... but achievable.

Our second priority is to build a narrative that expresses, loud and clear, the fact that many young people like us are not afraid to live in a low-carbon world. That we no longer want anyone to cut more trees and dig up more carbon from the ground to (supposedly) "create jobs for our youth". That we are ready to leave our worst polluting habits behind and embrace sustainable, collaborative, and innovative lifestyles. Not in 2030, not in 2050 - now!

The task is enormous, but we find motivation in this simple truth: if we, as young people, don't voice our concerns and aspirations, no one will do it for us.

This blog post is part of a series produced by The Elders, in partnership with the Huffington Post, to mark Earth Day (April 22, 2014) and call on young people to create momentum in the run-up to of a major climate conference in Paris in December 2015. The Elders are a group of independent global leaders working for peace, justice and human rights, brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007.

On April 22, Jimmy Carter, Hina Jilani and Mary Robinson, members of The Elders, will hold a debate on climate leadership and youth in Paris at 17:00 CEST. The event will be live-streamed by the Huffington Post and on www.theElders.org. You can tweet your questions using #ScPoElders. Join the conversation and follow @TheElders on Twitter.

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